Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yoga Benefits

I’ve always been a fan of yoga and have been in practice off and on for a number of years now, and by no means am I an expert in yoga, but I thoroughly enjoy it.  Yoga has so many benefits for runners and non runners alike.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before but I’m going to go tell you the benefits you can gain from yoga and what I have personally gained from my practice.
Some of the countless benefits include an increase in flexibility, stress reduction, increase in  awareness and concentration, injury prevention, it teaches you how to use your breath properly, increases balance, stability, strength, and stamina.  Additionally, yoga can help decrease a variety of health concerns including high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain (if done properly), and mental health.  I am not a doctor or a certified yoga instructor, but I have read time and time again these benefits in articles written by professionals.  My own personal benefits that I have gained include creating calmness, increase in flexibility, stress reduction, discipline, and as many of you know, my balance and strength in my recovery from my stroke has been the largest benefit for me this past year.

Best of all you can always do yoga with your kids!  Chloe has been doing downward dog with me since she was 8 months old.  She loves doing yoga poses with mommy and it’s a great way to engage with your kids and be active at the same time.

I hear over and over again from some of my friends that they are afraid to try yoga, that they are “too clumsy” or “I can’t balance!”  While it can look intimidating when you see all those “perfect” yoga poses by those who teach and/or practice it everyday, but in reality, even those that teach do not always do it perfectly every time.  Even our teachers are still learning too, as many of us continue to do in any of our professions.  Yoga is such a great exercise and practice because, like running, you go at your own pace, you go as far as you can go, and you get stronger overtime!  So who cares if you hold a tree pose for 3 still held it for 3 seconds!

My advice to those who are interested in learning more about yoga is to try a class; look at your gym and your community.  Find the right type of class that suits you...I tend to go to mixed level classes as I can make the class fit me and others around me do the same for them.  In our community we have many free yoga events.  My favorites are with Mikki Trowbridge and her Beer and Yoga events.  I go to her community classes when I can and I LOVE it when she holds events at vineyards in our local area.  This week I attended her class at Eola Hills Legacy Estate Vineyard and it was gorgeous out; the perfect setting for a yoga class.  I find added benefits as they are generally in nature (during the spring/summer months) and it's a new community to bond with and enrich your soul.  My next endeavor in yoga is to try Mikki's SUP Yoga on the water! So get out there and try something new in the yoga world and see how it can benefit you and your health! Namaste.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

1 year stroke anniversary

I’ve been a bit hiatus the past few months in the blogging world.  Work from April to June is pretty crazy as we try to work with our students to complete their credits and graduate on time.  But we did it!  I was able to attend the class of 2017 graduation this year and was proud to be a part of all the successes this year.  As we all know, I celebrated my strokeversay on June 11th...last week.  Last year it was the morning of the 2016 graduation that I never made it to.  So this year was extra special.  All spring I kept joking with my seniors saying “don’t put me in the hospital like last year’s seniors did.”  They all laughed, but I also freaked them out a bit :).  All joking aside, my seniors also helped me in moving forward this spring, with staying focused on maintaining my stress levels and looking forward to their big day. 

My awesome co-workers. Couldn't
have survived this year without them
I moved through this school year and paid closer attention to my body and learned a few things along the way.  I learned that patience is a far more difficult thing than I thought before.  Patience for so many reasons.  Patience in allowing myself to just rest and do NOTHING, patience to allow my friends and family help me when I wasn’t able to, patience in allowing myself to recover at it’s own pace and not push my body, and especially patience in knowing that, hey I am alive and I am OKAY!  

I also learned I am a pretty determined individual and I wouldn’t take no for an answer.  This came through while I was engaged in my physical therapy during my recovery.  I was not progressing as much after a few months from my stroke and continued to have sensation issues and weakness on my left side.  I had connected with a colleague at a conference who used to work for an amazing physical therapist, so I called him up.  He is THE BEST.  He is an athlete and has experience working with young stroke patients.  He GOT ME unlike my therapists at Kaiser.  He understood that I needed to get back to being active and not be afraid of falling over.  My therapist and I were both determined to get back to a safety zone that I could feel comfortable performing in running, yoga, and any other activity I wanted to engage in.  We fought hard with Kaiser insurance to get them to approve his therapy since it was out-of-network.  I have never seen a doctor so passionate about his work and go above and beyond like he did to try and get me the care I needed and deserved.  
Chris and I on a long trail
run in Portland

We were not successful in winning the approval from my insurance, but that didn’t stop us from continuing our therapy.  I worked with him for 8 weeks and improved my balance and strength.  I felt more confident in moving forward with a normal workout plan and getting back into some “racing”.  So thank you Mike Studer with Northwest Rehab for helping me get back to being ME!  I so appreciate your hard work and determination that you and your clinic provide to get your clients back to health!  
So far I have ran in two 5k road races and one 10k trail race.  All felt good and I had zero issues, and of course my Orange Mud gear assisted me through my races.  After my 10k, I feel more determined and motivated to sign up for a longer trail race.  So I did!  Chris and I are both signed up for the Condor 25k Trail Run in October and will be representing Orange Mud. They've been such huge supporters in my recovery as well. Time to get back with our running friends with Zao Fit and log more miles with them!
My awesome Zao Fit ladies after
my 1st 5k since my stroke

It's definitely been a roller coaster this past year, but I am so thankful for the continued support from my family, friends, and co-workers. I wouldn't have been so successful in my recovery without everyone!!! I still continue to have some issues with my left leg and can feel lightheaded if I haven't had enough water, food, or am stressed, so I'm still learning that patience thing a bit, but all in all, I've made quite the speedy recovery in one year. I've enjoyed connecting with others around the country and being able to share my story with others in hopes of inspiring others that all things are possible with the right mindset. This Father's Day weekend will be a year that I came home from the hospital. I am so very blessed and thankful for all that has occurred and all I have learned. Everything happens for a reason and we must continue to learn from our experiences and help each other along the way.

Just being silly as usual
Rogue enjoying the beach for the first time

Friday, April 7, 2017

Running From Stroke

I grew up with riding my bike alongside my dad as he trained for marathons during my childhood, which influenced my desire to begin a lifelong career of running at the age of 12.  Running was a sport I could find myself in, connect with countless others around the world, compete against myself and build a whole new network of a family.  As my life has changed into a working mom, my running and fitness goals have changed too.  For 2016 my goals included running 1000 miles for the year (first time since my collegiate running days) and compete in my first 50k ultra marathon trail race.  I was pumped up about these goals as my love for trail running had grown over the years and this was a new challenge to embark on.
I started off the year with a pulled achilles, then slipped and fell on a bridge and hit my tailbone that set me back on my mileage.  As I was healing and gaining miles back, I continued on my training plan and was back on track.  I ran a 30k trail race as a start to my official training for my 50k on June 5th, then six days later, my goals would have to change dramatically.
I woke up at 3:30 in the morning on June 11th, 2016 with excruciating head and neck pain, then quickly became dizzy and numb on the right side of my body.  I knew this wasn’t something I could cure on my own, so I called out to my husband to call 911 as I knew I needed medical attention.  Doctors weren’t quite sure what was happening to me at first as I still had most function in my body and was communicating, until my whole right side lost all function and I was beginning to have trouble breathing.  It was then that doctors put me under to stabilize me and could see that I was having a stroke.
How does a perfectly healthy 31 year old female, with absolutely zero risk factors have a stroke?  This is the question that still boggles my mind and my doctors.  My specific stroke, which was a right vertebral artery dissection, is generally caused by extreme neck trauma.  Still mind boggled because I hadn’t really experienced any trauma.  I had just ran a 30k trail race and been going along business as usual the week prior to my stroke.  My only conclusion is that I gave myself whiplash from some extreme violent sneezing during a seasonal allergy attack.  But still..seriously?
Nonetheless, I had a stroke.  My running and fitness goals changed in an instant and new goals emerged.  I would have to learn to walk again, regain my balance, and gain mental and physical strength.  Learning to walk again came back to me slowly after a week of intensive therapy at a rehabilitation facility.  Being young and healthy helped me get there fairly quickly.  I continued to do my own therapy at home, then found an amazing therapist who was an experienced triathlete and has worked for many years with stroke patients, as well as young stroke patients.  
Since working with this therapist, I continued to grow stronger both physically and mentally.  With guidance, I incorporated underwater jogging and balance work, HIIT workouts in both running and in the weight room, and yoga. I am now almost 10 months post stroke and have competed in a 5k, have an upcoming 10k trail run, and am looking to continue bumping up my mileage. I have learned to change my workout regime to match my current health safely and effectively.  I pay even more attention to my nutrition and to how my body is feeling.  My stroke has in no way limited me, but has made me a better and smarter athlete.  That 50k will sooner or later be mine!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Persistence + Patience = Progress = Small Successes

Chris out for a run with the pup
I titled this blog as Persistence + Patience = Progress = Small Successes because I am continuing to learn that persistence and patience are two of the main things that are aiding in my recovery, especially patience.  Through the month of January, I continued to be persistent in working on my exercises and strength training to continue improving my balance and regain strength.  I had attended physical therapy with Northwest Rehab Assoc through the month of December and into January, then continued with the knowledge I had learned from my very passionate physical therapist Mike Studer (also the clinic's owner) on my own.  I could get into the frustration I had with my insurance not approving my therapy with NWRA, but I won't do that here.  BUT I can't tell you enough how great this clinic is and how passionate they are about helping their patients recover and advocate on behalf of their patients.  Just last week I went back in to test my balance and strength over the last month, and I continue to get stronger.  What's interesting is that when we test my balance after I exert some energy, it improves.  You would think the opposite, but this has has always been consistent each time I have done this.  In a way, this makes sense though as many studies show physical activity improve your focus and energy.  I am more proof :)
Braving it with the pup and kiddo
I increased my running mileage to almost 10 miles in a week a couple weeks ago and was feeling good.  Then a few days after that I began to feel dizzy again and some pain in my head.  I definitely got scared as this wasn't a feeling I had experienced since last June, so I had another CT scan and rested at home.  The scan came back about the same as my scan 3 months post stroke, so that was good.  I still have narrowed flow blood through my right vertebral artery and an occlusion where the dissection occurred, which can explain why I experience the feelings I had, and still will as my brain continues to heal.  I also was coming down with a cold (as everyone else around me) which I believe exacerbated the sensations in my head.  I began to feel better, aside from the cold, and was also reassured by my physical therapist that I was okay, and decided I was ready for a 5k race.
ZaoFit gals!
I was gifted an entry into the Chocoladathon from Olivia...the race was put on by Uberthons, and ran with my friends from ZaoFit (Julie, Jerry, Olivia, and Claudia).  My friends Jerry and Julie are ambassadors for Uberthons, so all the more reason to do a race with them.  We raced at Cook Park in Tigard, OR.  I ran here once for a cross country meet in high school.  I remember liking it 17 years ago and there was going to be chocolate, yum, so at 8 months post stroke, this was going to be the race.  I ran the 5k while most everyone else ran the 10k and longer as they were using this as a training day.  It was a beautiful, but cold morning.  The sun was shining and no rain!!!  After a couple months of snow'usj, ice, and rain, it was a very welcoming morning! I ended up with a 26:55, though I ran a little further due to some poor course management by a volunteer, so I finished at 3.2 miles and averaged 8:25 per mile.  I was happy with my race as this was also the first time I had ran that far without stopping for a break since June.  My arms felt weak and heavy the last mile, but my legs held up and more importantly so did my head!! It was a fun morning with friends and I was blessed to have the ability and opportunity to run at this fun event.  I was especially happy to visit with my friend Monica after the race and her precious 6 week old baby Rae.
First 5K post stroke done
With Julie, a huge supporter
 to me
Some people say I've had a long 8 month recovery, but really it hasn't been that long and I continue to be so thankful and blessed to have recovered relatively could have been so much worse. While there was not much I could have done to prevent the type of stroke I had, being young and healthy has helped tremendously in my recovery.  And while according to my insurance and doctors I am back to "normal", I am still learning to be patient with my body.  I so wish I could run with Chris and my friends every weekend and begin training for an ultra race, but my body will usually remind me to slow down and continue to be patient as my brain continues to do the amazing things it can do.  PERSISTENCE and PATIENCE are key in my recovery as most things in our lives, to help gain progress and success. My friends, family, co-workers and running community (Orange Mud community in particular) continue to support and encourage me in my recovery. Take your blessing every day, and take it day by day!

Taking a break on a run at Minto Brown Park
My 2 loves

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year End

As 2016 comes to an end I reflect on what this year has brought and taught me.  I don’t think that anything in life comes as planned.  We all make goals for ourselves and set ourselves out to be the very best we can be, but sometimes those goals do not pan out the way we intended them too.  This year my husband and I set out to run at least 1000 miles and participate in our first ultra marathon; a 50k at Silver Falls State Park.  We ran the Cascade Half Marathon in January and ran many miles with our friends from ZaoFit and explored more trails at Silver Falls to train for the 50k.  I had fallen once at a training run at Silver Falls and bruised my tailbone which set me back a couple weeks, but no one could prepare me and my family for the ultimate setback I was about to face in June.  I ran the 30k race at Run For The Hills on June 5th, then five days later I was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital with what we learned a few hours later was a stroke.  I am still in shock that this ever happened.  It’s been almost 7 months now, and no one could have prepared me for what I faced this year.  I thought I would run and enjoy the great trails Oregon has to offer, become an ultra marathon runner and continue to influence and inspire others towards a healthy lifestyle.  My dream to become an ultra runner did not happen this year (but it did for Chris, yay!!!), nor will it happen in 2017, but just because this set me back does not mean I cannot become an ultra runner one day.  Just because I suffered a stroke does not limit my potential.  Over the past 6 months I have become impatient, frustrated, and sad that I cannot do what I once could, but I have also learned to become more grateful for all that I do have.  I am still alive and kick’n and can continue to be an influence on others.  I hope to continue to inspire and influence others on my journey to recovery, through leading a healthy lifestyle, and bringing hope to my students and their families.  I love my job and the opportunity I have to connect with others; being an Orange Mud Ambassador has been so much fun and I can't wait to continue doing more for the best trail running company out there; I love my family and watching Chloe grow into this amazing little girl and continuing to watch Chris be an amazing father and husband that wants to do nothing more than make us happy. While 2016 may not have been all that I asked for, it has given me everything that I needed to make me into a stronger woman, friend, counselor, daughter, wife, and most importantly a mother. I hope you all are thankful for what you have and continue to use your strengths to inspire others. Thank you 2016 for all you’ve given me and bring it on 2017!  Happy New Years everyone! Let's make 2017 amazing!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

6 Months Post Stroke

Being flown to OHSU
It’s been 6 months today that I had my stroke.  It’s been a journey this last half of the year.  My life was turned upside down when I became dizzy and numb all of the sudden that early morning on June 11th.  I could no longer walk, couldn’t talk, and couldn’t breath.  It was the scariest time of my life and my families.  So many thoughts came through their heads about what was happening to me.  I don’t remember thinking anything but “what is wrong with me?!?!” I had no choice but to leave my trust and faith into the doctors to help save me and get me back to health.  It’s crazy to think that this was me 6 months ago!!  I mean seriously, I had a stroke?!?!  
At my worst, but in good care
Today I am mostly back to normal in terms of living my daily life, working, and being a mom, wife, daughter, and friend to my all of my friends and family.  I am still unable to run and exercise like I used to, but I am slowly getting there.  I still experience weakness on my left side.  My lower left leg and foot are almost constantly tingly and somewhat numb.  My upper left is still sensitive to cold and hurts still even when rain drops hit my arm.  I am used to it, but it’s still annoying. I do exercise and have been run/walking for 2 miles for a while now, but I’m usually in pain the next day and often lightheaded.  
An evening run
My left leg also gives out on me often if I do anything more than a shuffle.  So imagine trying to run on a trail again with technical terrain….I’d fall flat on my face! Only hiking for now. I started seeing a new physical therapist here in Salem that is well known in the stroke world and has so much expertise with stroke patients and especially those that are young and active (Northwest Rehabilitation Associates).  He’s got me running in the pool on an underwater treadmill doing HIIT workouts.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be going since it’s out of my insurance network and I have pay out of pocket.  I will go back to Kaiser and see the physiatrist and another PT and see if they can do more, but I doubt they can do what this other guy can do with his facilities and expertise.  We will see what happens!!  It’s hard to make any fitness goals because I just don’t know what I can do safely, but for now my goal is to keep at it and continue getting better!  I’m itching to do a trail run in the Spring, but I don’t think I’ll be ready.  Slow and steady, I need to remember, but I’m finally feeling more hope with this new therapist.  I only wish I found him sooner! Chris and I have been taking advantage of our mostly mild fall with short runs/walks in the park with Chloe and Rogue.  He is getting huge!! Can’t wait to be able to really run with him for a long run.  We are still representing our favorite trail running gear company Orange Mud and are thrilled to be a part of their team....they also have some great deals right now too, so be sure to check them out! They are definitely helping me in my recovery in keeping me motivated and hopeful I will be running on the trails soon.  
We celebrated Chloe turning 2!!!  Seriously, how do they grow so fast!  She’s thriving everyday and sings her ABC’s and can count to 20 now while she does “pull ups”! She amazes us every day.  We are so thankful for each and every day and I still can’t thank everyone enough for your support this year!  I still haven’t finished my thank you cards, and I apologize for that...I will eventually get to them all!  But please know how much you all mean to me!  We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas this holiday season and hug your loved ones!  Cheers!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Silver Falls 50k Recap

This last Saturday on November 5th, we set out at 5:30 in the morning to Silver Falls State Park to participate in the Silver Falls 50k.  This is the race we had both wanted to do earlier in the year, then my plan was sabotaged when I suffered from a stroke 5 months ago.  During the summer Chris was not sure if he wanted to do the race since I could no longer run, but I encouraged him to still run...I even got our friends Julie and Jerry to run too :)  I signed up to volunteer at the race and still be part of the festivities and experience a 50k through my husband, friends, and fellow runners.  There were many times that Chris, Jerry, and Julie all thought they might not run due to a variety of reasons, but indeed they were there at the starting line on a crisp November morning.  
Volunteering early in the morning
Julie at mile 9.6
Chris was using his endurance pack from Orange Mud.  While he was preparing, though, a small pinhole was in his bladder that was leaking.  Nothing would hold the small leak, but since it would be raining anyways, he decided to deal with it. As the gun set off, I was still busy getting runners their race packets as they prepared for their marathon, and few 50k stragglers that barely missed the start time.  I then offered to help at an aid station and good thing I did, cause the van with the goods didn’t know where to go.  I had picked up another volunteer and headed to the youth camp aid station.  The van with the goods did not know to go through a shut gate, but we indeed found a way and barely had our table set up in time for the first few runners.  This was fun seeing the runners early in the race (mile 9.6) and enjoying themselves.  Unfortunately our station somehow did not get any Heed or gels, but luckily it was early enough in the race I knew they would be okay till the next aid station at mile 14 who was sure to have all the goods. My husband and friends were surprised to see me here and it was fun to see their smiling faces.  They were feeling good and enjoying the beautiful trails.  I left my fellow volunteers as the rain began to set in and headed to the next aid station to cheer on everyone and “crew” them with their special needs that they had packed in their drop bags.  
I saw Chris and Jerry turn the corner into the aid station and still looking good.  They had crossed a river 2 miles prior so I thought Chris may want new socks, but he was good.  He was still fine with his pack and hadn’t noticed a leak from the bladder.  They quickly took their energy gels and water and headed out.  I soon saw Julie and she looked good.  She was REALLY hungry and wanted her PB and J so I assisted her and got her the fuel she needed.  She also had a couple caffeine pills, which she took, and later learned this was not the best idea (more on that coming up). I wouldn’t see anyone again until mile 24, so I headed back to the finish, warmed up with some yummy chili and coffee and congratulated our friend Olivia for completing the tough 7 mile race.  She and her friend did a great job and enjoyed the beautiful falls on their run.  I was also hoping to see our friend Tonya, but she finished and left because she hit her head while going under one of the falls and fell flat on her back.  She was okay, but needed stitches; ouch!! I checked in at the volunteer tent to see if the needed anymore help.  I told them I was headed to the North Falls to meet my friends and brought along more fuel for the runners.  I had estimated to see everyone between 12 and 12:30, so I had some time and rested my eyes a bit in the car.  I went back to the checkpoint and took a short jog (.2 miles) to a waterfall to enjoy the sights while I waited.  
I came back and continued to wait with other spectators, finding shelter under the bridge.  It was getting closer to 12:30 and I hadn’t seen anyone yet.  Chris had sent me a text about an hour and half earlier saying he was cramping up at mile 17, so I knew he was struggling.  Finally I saw Jerry.  He looked good and continued on.  Chris was no longer with him, so I waited for him.  I was maybe expecting him to only be no more than 10 minutes behind, but he still wasn’t there.  I knew he was hurting earlier, so maybe he dropped out a few miles back.  I didn’t have service anymore, so I couldn’t communicate with him, so I continued to wait.  Finally, around 1pm I saw Chris coming down the trail. He had been cramping a ton in his calves and was being cautious as he continued in the race.  I gave him some company for a few short minutes down the trail, then away he went.  He was nervous about not making the cut off time, but he was safe with 30 minutes to spare.  
I still hadn’t seen Julie, so I stuck around.  I figured she wouldn’t be too far behind Chris, but time continued to go on and I still hadn’t seen her.  I hiked up the trails a bit in hopes of seeing her run down the trail, but no sign of Julie.  The cut-off time came and went and I had to make the decision to head back to the finish.  I just didn’t want to leave without making sure she was okay...I would’ve felt so bad if she had come through and I wasn’t there with her stuff, but I knew that if she did there were others still there to help and sweepers would be coming through soon.  I just hoped that she was okay. I got a text from Chris saying he was around the South Falls with only 4 more tough miles to go.  I waited around the finish line looking for Jerry and Julie, but didn’t see them.  I just had to hold out hope they were all okay.  I knew Chris would be coming down soon, so I went to the bottom of their last hill and at last, I saw him!  I walked/jogged with him for a ¼ mile to the finish.  He did it!!! He was now an ultra runner!  He said he was cramping since mile 17 and had struggled along the way.  He said his calves were super tight at one point and fell down.  Other fellow runners helped him out and rubbed his calves and gave him salt tablets.  He was sore, but happy and proud he did it!! The thing I love about runners, especially trail runners, is that they are always so helpful.  Chris received help with his calves and Julie gets another person’s shirt!  How awesome is that!!  
Runners provide such a fantastic community through support, encouragement, and fellowship.  I’m so happy to still be part of it!  Many people have asked me if I was bummed that I couldn’t run this race and if it was hard to be there and not be in the race.  My answer, ABSOLUTELY NOT!! I enjoyed myself along the way.  From checking runners in, providing fuel and aid to others, and most importantly being a cheerleader was awesome!!  I was happy to be part of the event and experience my first 50k ultra race through my husband, friends, and fellow runners.  I was so excited for all those who were able to run today and even more excited for those who finished.  What an accomplishment for everyone!!  This was a fantastic event and hope to be part of it again in the future...hopefully running :) Thanks especially to Orange Mud for letting us represent you and for providing an awesome product for Chris to run with. 
Oh and the best part, since the race, I haven’t had a headache or felt lightheaded...the first time in 5 months at work!! A co-worker told me, “it’s because you had your nature, fresh air, and were in your element over the weekend”.  I think there is some truth to that.  I am blessed to be able to enjoy the wonders of our world and be part of an amazing community.  Looking forward to more beautiful moments throughout my life!
He's an Ultra Runner!

Nice work guys!!